Partners in Liberty: Washington Policy Center

Published February 19, 2020

The Washington Policy Center is a free-market, public policy think tank based in Seattle. The organization’s experts focus on several key areas of policy, including agriculture, education, environment, government reform, health care, and transportation.

Market-Based Solutions

The center’s environmental work covers national energy and climate policy as well as local issues such as salmon recovery and forest health.

Market- and technology-based solutions are the best ways to address environmental problems, the center argues. Many of the most effective environmental solutions come from individuals and innovators competing in the market to do more with less, reducing the use of energy, water, pesticides, and other sources of potential pollution.

‘Trojan Horse’

Many on the center-right care about environmental stewardship but worry environmental policy is a Trojan Horse for socialist policies, and, as a result, they often avoid even discussing environmental concerns in a political context. The Washington Policy Center promotes environmental solutions that empower individuals, not politicians.

The organization builds on the insights of Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom, who noted top-down government solutions are often costly failures because distant bureaucrats don’t have the right incentives or information.

Individuals, by contrast, know what they can do to help the environment, and they feel the costs of their decisions. For example, homeowners are using smart thermostats such as Google Nest to reduce their energy use and save money. These systems allow some users to receive rebates when they shift electricity demand outside the expensive period of peak demand. This personal incentive combined with the artificial intelligence of Nest has proven more effective than government programs in reducing energy demand and costs.

Concern and Prudence

Although the Washington Policy Center believes the threats posed by climate change are often exaggerated, the organization argues it is worth reducing any risks greenhouse gases may pose where it can be done effectively and maximizes benefits for every taxpayer dollar. Much of our nation’s climate policy fails this test.

Biofuels are a dramatic case in point. Biofuel mandates using corn-based ethanol often end up doing more harm than good. States with low-carbon fuel mandates pay more than $150 to avoid one metric ton of carbon dioxide, whereas the market offers projects reducing carbon dioxide emissions for as little as $3 per metric ton. Regardless of one’s thoughts about climate change, it makes no sense for taxpayers to waste 49 out of every 50 dollars spent on reducing carbon dioxide.

The general public cares about environmental stewardship, but many people feel the Right has abandoned the field of ideas in this area, leaving them supporting government-directed policies as the only options to solve environmental problems.

In truth, the Washington Policy Center believes the free market is the most effective and moral system ever to simultaneously create prosperity and promote environmental stewardship, and the organization works to provide solutions demonstrating this truth.